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In a desperate and unjust land, where government corruption rules the day, only one man has the courage to challenge the system and fight back. They call him Iron Monkey. Under the shadow of night, in the silence before dawn, he fights to give hope to the poor and the oppressed. Although no one knows his name and no one knows where he comes from, his heroism has made him a living legend to the people and a wanted man to the powers that be. Unable to capture this elusive Robin Hood through normal avenues, the ruthless government devises a plan: force a nationally renowned master fighter into service by taking his beloved and only son hostage. The mandate is simple, track down the Iron Monkey if he ever wants to see his boy again. But when the Iron Monkey's identity and true intentions are revealed to him, the tables turn, and these two great men, one known and one masked, join forces to take down the evil empire and reclaim the rights of the common people.
For more about Iron Monkey and the Iron Monkey Blu-ray release, see Iron Monkey Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on February 25, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Yu Rongguang, Donnie Yen, Jean Wang, Tsang Sze Man, Yuen Shun-Yi, James Wong
Director: Yuen Woo Ping
» See full cast & crew
Iron Monkey Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, February 25, 2011
Produced by Tsui Hark and directed by Yuen Woo-Ping, "Siu nin Wong Fei Hung ji: Tit Ma Lau" a.k.a "Iron Monkey" (1993) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Hong Kong-based distributors Kam & Ronson Enterprises. The only supplemental features on the disc are two theatrical trailers. In Cantonese, with optional English, Traditional Chinese, and Thai subtitles for the main feature. Region-A "locked".
The plot of is simple: Twelve-year old Wong Fei-hung (Tsang Sze-Man) and his father, kung fu master Wong Kei-Ying (Donnie Yen, Kill Zone, Ip Man), arrive in the city of Chekiang. After a quick altercation with the corrupt governor's (James Wong, Rich Man) soldiers, Fei-Hung is detained and Kei-Ying told that if he wants to see his son again he must track down and arrest Iron Monkey, a mysterious troublemaker. Kei-Ying immediately agrees but quickly realizes that the locals would not cooperate because Iron Monkey is their idol. At the food market, a few of Chekiang's residents even openly confront him when he attempts to buy some noodles.
While wandering around Chekiang, Kei-Ying meets Dr. Wang (Yu Rong-Guang, Three Kingdoms: Resurrection of the Dragon) and his beautiful assistant, Miss Orchid (Jean Wang, Once Upon a Time in China IV). They welcome him at their home, feed him, and then ask why he is trying to capture Iron Monkey.
Fastforward. Things get complicated when an evil monk (Yen Shi-Kwan, The Killer in White) arrives in Chekiang and starts breaking things. He is also after Iron Monkey but for different reasons. Eventually, Iron Monkey reveals himself and all hell breaks loose.
Produced by the legendary Tsui Hark and directed by Yuen Woo-Ping, Iron Monkey is an entertaining period film whose story is deeply rooted in Chinese folklore. It blends humor, action, and drama in a way that should appeal to a wide variety of viewers.
However, unlike other similarly-themed films - Jeff Lau's A Chinese Odyssey films and Tsui Hark's Zu Warriors quickly come to mind - Iron Monkey does not rely on symbolic references; the main characters are placed in a world that looks exotic but feels familiar. Its story is more or less a Chinese rendition of Robin Hood's story - a man of honor sides with the poor and punishes the rich.
The main attraction in Iron Monkey are the terrifically choreographed fights. Future martial arts superstar Yen is right in the middle of a few fantastic scenes that are definitely worth seeing more than once (the umbrella scene, in particular, is quite remarkable).There are impressive contributions by Yu, Wang, and the young Yen, who plays Kei-Ying's son.
During the final third of the film, where most of the mouth-watering action is, the creators of Iron Monkey offer something of a kung fu masterclass - as Iron Monkey, his friends, and the evil monk begin fighting, just about all of their impressive kicks and spins are highlighted with a small description; there is valuable information about the deadly King-Kong palm, the sleek flying sleeves, etc.
There are also a few preachy moments where Kei-Ying teaches his son how to react to provocations and learn to control his emotions that are not overly impressive, but in the grand scheme of things they are easily forgettable.
The production values are very good. While not too flashy, the visual effects are amongst the better ones seen in wire-fu films from the 1990s. The period decors and costumes are also elaborate. The editing, however, could have been and should have been much tighter.
Note: In 1994, Iron Monkey was nominated for Best Action Choreography Award Yuen Woo-ping , Yuen Cheung-Yan, Yuen Shun-Yee, Kook Hin-Chiu) at the Hong Kong Film Awards.
Iron Monkey Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Yuen Woo-ping's Iron Monkey arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Hong Kong-based distributors Kam & Ronson Enterprises.
This high-definition transfer has been struck from a dated source, but it is actually quite a bit better than the one Disney used for their Blu-ray release of Iron Monkey in the United States. Generally speaking, fine object detail and clarity are adequate, but there are various fluctuations, which is why some scenes look slightly better than others. Contrast is also relatively good, though, again, there are fluctuations. Now, the Disney transfer is plagued by a very thick layer of machine noise, which creates the impression that it actually has a stronger grain structure; here, the noise is nowhere to be seen. Naturally, this transfer has a much more pleasing, though dated, organic look. Still, there are various limitations, and obviously there is plenty of room for improvement, but all things considered Iron Monkey looks much more like a film on the Kam & Ronson Enterprises release. For the record, there are small scratches and debris popping up here and there, but I did not find them to be overly distracting. (Note: This is a Region-A "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-A or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Iron Monkey Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There are three audio tracks on this Blu-ray disc: Cantonese Dolby TrueHD 7.1, Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.1 EX and Thai Dolby Digital 5.1 EX. For the record, Kam & Ronson Enterprises have provided optional English, Thai and Traditional Chinese subtitles for the main feature.
This release also has an advantage in the audio department - because it has the original Cantonese track as a loseless option. On the Disney release, the Cantonese track is lossy. This being said, the Cantonese Dolby TrueHD 7.1 track is somewhat uneven. During the numerous action scenes some of the enhanced kicks, for instance, are quite loud. The dialog, however, is clean and stable. (There is quite a bit of overdubbing done, so if you occasionally notice small lyp-sync issues do not be upset; this is not a transfer flaw; many of the actors simply did their lines in Mandarin). The English translation is fairly good, though from time to time the subtitles switch rather quickly.
Iron Monkey Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Iron Monkey Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
If you like Yuen Woo-Ping's Iron Monkey and are looking to add it to your collections, I suggest you grab this Blu-ray release, courtesy of Hong Kong-based distributors Kam & Ronson Enterprises. Though not perfect, it looks better than the one Disney produced quite some time ago, and it also has the original Cantonese track as a loseless option. If you reside in a Region-B territory, please keep in mind that the disc is Region-A "locked". RECOMMENDED.
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